If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve probably sat down with friends and had heated discussions about the best NBA Finals games ever. From superstars battling it out on the biggest stages, to rivalries spanning decades, the NBA has brought us epic Finals battles that will never be forgotten.
So just in case you need a little reminder, we’ve decided to take a look at the best NBA Finals games in league history.
Best NBA Finals games
Some of the best games in the history of the NBA have come in the Finals, and that is no coincidence. The best players always manage to lift themselves and unlock a new level of basketball when it matters the most.
So whether it’s shooting the lights out, or coming back to win an impossible game, the best individual NBA Finals performances almost always seem to come in the Finals.
Here are the top 10 greatest games in NBA finals history.
10. Game 4, 2008 – Celtics 97, Lakers 91
The Celtics-Lakers rivalry has brought us some of the best NBA Finals ever. In Game 4 of the 2008 Finals, the Celtics clawed their way back from a 24-point deficit in Staples Center to take a commanding 3-1 lead against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Looking to even the series, the Lakers took control from the start, building a big lead, but Boston went on a 23-3 run in the second half that brought them a 97-91 victory.
9.Game 3, 1993 – Suns 129, Bulls 121 (Triple OT)
The Bulls took the first two games in Phoenix, but Barkley and the Suns came out in Game 3 ready for a dogfight, that would go down as one of the best NBA Finals games ever.
Dan Majerle hit six triples, Barkley recorded a big-boy double double with 25 points and 19 boards, and Kevin Johnson played 62 minutes in a 3-hour, 20-minute marathon that is only the second triple overtime in NBA Finals history.
Jordan and the Bulls proved too strong for the Suns though and closed the series out in six.
8. Game 3, 2006 – Heat 98, Mavericks 96
NBA Finals comebacks are instant classics. In 2006, Dwyane Wade and the Heat staged a dramatic comeback against the Mavs who had a 13-point lead midway through the 4th quarter. The game was a must win for Miami after dropping the first two games in Dallas.
Wade led a furious Heat comeback in what has to be one of the best individual NBA Finals performances of all-time. He ended up scoring 42 points, 15 of which came in the last quarter.
The Heat won the next three games, bringing Miami its first ever championship.
7. Game 2, 2011 – Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Revenge is always sweet, even if it comes five years later.
In similar fashion to the Heat’s comeback in 2006, the Mavs climbed their way back from a 15-point deficit midway through the 4th quarter led by Dirk Nowitzki.
Dallas ended the game on a 22-5 run capped by Nowitzki’s famous lay-up that stunned LeBron James and the Heat.
Nowitzki and the Mavs brought Dallas its first ever championship that year, ousting the Heat in six games and humbling the newly founded super team in Miami.
6. Game 4, 1987 – Lakers 107, Celtics 106
The Celtics and Lakers met three times in the Finals in the 80s. 1987 was the 3rd and final meeting between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the NBA Finals. Both teams had already won three titles in the 80s and the showdown was highly anticipated.
The Lakers won the first two games at home, but the Celtics responded to win Game 3. The game packed a considerable amount of drama and ended up swaying the series in the Lakers’ favor.
Bird hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left on the clock to put the Celtics up by two. Then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sank only one of his two free throws, setting the stage for one of Magic’s most iconic moments: a game-winning shot that sealed the win for Los Angeles.
The Lakers end up beating the Celtics in 6, raising their 10th banner in total and their fourth in the 80s.
5. Game 1, 2001 – 76ers 107, Lakers 101 (OT)
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers were the clear favorites coming into this series, and they did end up winning their second consecutive title on their way to a threepeat.
Game 1 however was all about Allen Iverson, the league MVP. “The Answer” had all the answers that night, exploding for 48 points in LA. The Sixers built a lead by half-time, but the Lakers slowly chipped at it and forced overtime. Then came the infamous step over a fallen Tyronn Lue that put the Sixers up by four points and sealed the upset.
4. Game 6, 1998 – Bulls 87, Jazz 86
This was Jordan’s last game with the Bulls, and it ended in spectacular fashion. With 5.2 seconds left on the clock, Jordan drove to his right, stopped on a dime, and nailed a mid-range jumper that brought Chicago its sixth championship in eight years, and a second threepeat.
Jordan might have pushed Bryon Russell off, but history favors the bold, and Jordan was the boldest.
3. Game 5, 1997 – Bulls 90, Jazz 88
The Utah Jazz would have probably won a chip or two if Michael Jordan didn’t put the nail in their coffin a couple of times.
Michael Jordan was battling a bad case of the Flu, and still managed to drop 38 points giving the Bulls a 3-2 lead that they desperately needed after losing the previous two games.
The aptly dubbed “Flu Game” remains one of best individual NBA Finals performances of all time.
2. Game 6, 2013 – Heat 103, Spurs 100 (OT)
Ironically enough, Ray Allen, the former Celtic, saved LeBron James’ legacy in this game by knocking down a corner three after Chris Bosh grabbed a LeBron miss and swung it to Allen in the right corner.
The game went to overtime, and the Heat sealed the win behind LeBron’s 32-point triple double.
Miami ended up securing their second consecutive title in Game 7.
1. Game 7, 2016 – Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89
Everyone knows that the best two words in basketball are “Game 7”. This particular Game 7 happened to be a historic one for multiple reasons. LeBron and the Cavs completed the only comeback from 3-1 in NBA Finals history and brought Cleveland its first ever NBA title in 52 years.
LeBron was a beast all series but ended Game 7 with a 27-point triple double and an iconic chase-down block on Andre Iguodala. Kyrie Irving drilled a go-ahead dagger threeball in Steph Curry’s face, and the Cavs beat all odds in one of the best NBA Finals games ever.